The World of Arabic Nicknames by dov51579


									The World of Arabic Nicknames

          Bushra Zawaydeh, Ph.D.
          Senior Linguist
          Basis Technology Corp.
What is a nickname?

• A nickname is a name that identifies a person, place, or event that
  is different from the formal given name of the referent.

• Nicknames are often not legally registered in one’s official

      Muammar Qathafi
        • Al‐Akh al‐Aqid                   ‘Brother Colonel’
        • Amin al‐qawmiyyah al‐Arabiyyah   ‘Keeper of Arab Nationalism’
        • Sahib al‐Kitab al‐Akhdar         ‘Owner of the Green Book’

Why study nicknames?

• Studying nicknames is important for national security because they
  are used as aliases. Instead of using one’s real name, one may use
  a nickname to hide their identity.

• A term for such usage is “nom de guerre” (i.e. war name).
  Resistance fighters, terrorists, and guerilla fighters use
  pseudonyms to hide their identities and protect themselves and
  their families from harm.

Importance of studying nicknames

• Understanding the pseudonyms used by radical groups sheds light
  on their future intentions, perceptions, motivations, and
  connection to the cause. (Guidère, 2006).

Abu Hamza al-Muhajir (Abu Ayyub Al-Misri)             chief of Al-Qaeda in
      Hamza Ibn Abd Al‐Muttalib       Prophet Mohammad’s uncle. One of the 
      bravest protectors of Islam.
      Muhajir   he immigrated to Iraq to fight. Or it could refer to “hijra” of  
      companions of Mohammad from Mecca to Medina. 


•   The same individual may have many nicknames/aliases.

•   used at different occasions by different people.

                                              The Prince
                         The Emir                           Sword of Islam

             Hajj                                                            Sword of God

     The Sheikh                          Osama bin Laden                           Samaritan
                                             a ma Bin Lade
        Abu Abdallah                    Os                                   Imam Mehdi

                       Mujahid Shaykh                        The Director
                                              Lion Sheikh

When & Why are nicknames used?

• Friendly daily conversations (face to face, on the phone, letters, e-
  mails, etc). Used for endearment or respect.

• Monarchs may be known by other nicknames.

• ‘Nabaz’ nicknames used to insult others (ex. Enemies), or used in
  the formation of swear words.

• Concealing identity:
      Computer users:  Chartrooms, e‐mails, blogs, used as“usernames”.
      Literary pen names – publishing authors.
      Stage names  (ism shuhra)‐ actors, singers, dancers, etc. 
      Criminals, terrorists, etc (takhallus) – especially the leaders have 

Types of Arabic nicknames

1. Asma’ Dal’   Hypocoristics       ‫ٔاسماء دلع‬

2. Kunya        Abu X               ‫كنية‬

3. Nasab        Ibn X patronymics   ‫نسب‬

4. Laqab        description         ‫لقب‬

5. Nisba        origin of person     ‫نسبة‬

6. Nabaz        insulting names       ‫نبز‬


• Arabic hypocoristic formation is very generative.

• Generation is largely based on the root of the name (Zawaydeh and Davis,

• “Khalid” ‫ ﺧﺎﻟﺪ‬has the following Jordanian and Egyptian nicknames:

                      Lido                       Khalkhuuleh
        Dodi                                                Khalluudi
      Lodi                                                     Khalluude

             Khokha                                     Khukhu
                             Dido          Khalkhul

Hypocoristics: Template CVC.CVVC(V)

 •    In these names, the consonants in the full names are the same as
      the ones in the root.

 •    Final [a] surfaces when the last root consonant is a guttural or [r].

Root                 Meaning of      Name            Template CaCCuuC(e/a)
bšr                  give good       bušra ‫ﺑﺸﺮى‬      baššuur(a)
xld                  Eternal         xaalid ‫ﺧﺎﻟﺪ‬     xalluud(e)

wld                  Give birth      waliid ‫وﻟﻴﺪ‬     walluud(e)


• Different names with the same root consonants have the same

Root            Meaning of   Name          Template
                root                       CaCCuuC(e/a)

Hsn             good         Hasan ‫ﺣﺴﻦ‬     Hassuun(e)

Hsn             good         Huseen ‫ﺣﺴﻴﻦ‬   Hassuun(e)


• Names with four root consonants follow the same pattern.

Root            Meaning of    Name          Template
                root                        CaCCuuC(e/i/a)

mrym            Mary          Maryam ‫ﻣﺮﻳﻢ‬   maryuum(e)

brhm            To look       ?ibraahiim    barhuum(e)
                steadfastly    ‫إﺑﺮاهﻴﻢ‬


•   When a full name has an affixal consonant, be it a prefix, suffix, or
    infix, the affixal consonant does not appear in the hypocoristic.

    Hypocoristic contains only root consonants, regardless of what
    other consonants may be in the name.

Root               Meaning of      Name            Template
                   root                            CaCCuuC(e/i/a)
Hmd                praise          muHammad        Hammuud(e)
Hmd                praise          ?aHmad   ‫أﺣﻤﺪ‬   Hammuud(e)

Hmd                praise          Haamid   ‫ﺣﺎﻣﺪ‬   Hammuud(e)

Kunya ‫آﻨﻴﺔ‬

• In the Arab tradition, after a person gets married and has a child, s/he is
  called by the name of his eldest son (or daughter).
       Abu Muhammad       ‘father of Muhammad’
       Um Muhammad        ‘mother of Muhammad’

• Highly used in the Arab World, and Muslims in general (ex: Afghanistan,

• Some Kunyas are metaphorical. The second word uses a positive or
  negative attribute.
       Abu Al‐Khayr                  ‘father of goodness’
       Abu Dhubab                                ‘father of flies’

• Not every Abu X is just a nickname. It could be also a surname. Ex.
  Palestinian surnames:
       Abu Hadeeda        ‘father of iron’
       Abu Minshaar       ‘father of a saw’
       Abu Sham’a         ‘father of a candle’

Usages of Kunya

• Used daily as an honorific to show respect to elders.

• Used by young men to address each other, for fun. Even one who is
  not married, or doesn’t have a son may be called Abu X.

• As a “nom de guerre”. For example, “Abu” nicknames were
  popular among PLO leaders.
      Yasir Arafat    Abu Ammar
      Mahmoud Abbas       Abu Mazen

• A terrorist may be known by a Kunya name.
       in India, the nickname “Abu Al‐Qama” was used by a member of the 
      terrorist group Lashkar‐e‐Taiba ‫ ﻟﺸﮑﺮﻃﻴﺒہ‬in the Mumbai terror attacks 


• Nasab is a patronymic or a metronymic name. The word “Ibn” or
  “bint” (i.e. son/ daughter of) followed by the father’s name.

• Was used more frequently as an alias in historic times. The person
  was known as “son of X” instead of his first name. A chain of
  names reflects one’s genealogical ancestors. Example:
      Ibn Khaldoun     Abd ar‐Rahman ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn
      Muhammad ibn al‐Hasan ibn Muhammad ibn Jabir ibn Muhammad ibn
      Ibrahim ibn Abd ar‐Rahman ibn Khaldun

Nasab .. current usage

• It is a standard way of reporting names in Saudi Arabia, and the
  Arabian Gulf.
      The head of the House of Saud: Muhammad bin Saud bin Muhammad 
      bin Muqrin bin Murkhan bin Ibrahim bin Musa bin Rabi’a bin Mani’ bin 
      Rabi’a al‐Muraydi Al‐Dur’a al‐banafi Al‐Adnani

• Used online as alias names. Next word could be a colloquial or MSA
  adjective, a noun, a person’s name, or a place name.
      Ibn Falastine      ‘son of Palestine’
      Ibn Hajar          ‘son of a stone’


• This is a description of the person, that could be considered a title
  of nobility.

• It is often a two-word phrase, which often indicates the person’s
  occupation, importance, or appearance. Originally, it was used as
  a nickname, and later adopted to be a title given to important
      Sayf al‐Din       ‘The sword of the religion’
      Nasir al‐Dawla    ‘the helper of the dynasty’
      Al‐Jahiz          ‘the goggle‐eyed’

Laqab Styles

• A physical or personal quality. The phrase could be metaphorical.
  These could also be used as surnames.
      Al‐Tawil              ‘the tall one’          (could be a surname)
      Al‐Andalib al‐Asmar ‘the dark nightingale’ (Singer Abd Al‐Halim Hafiz)

• Expressing adoration or reliance on God, or lineage to the
  Prophet. Some use compound structures with words such as
  “Allah”, “Abd”, “al-Din”, “al-Islam”, “al-Dawlah”, or words used
  in titles:
      Al‐Ra’is Al‐Mu’min ‘the faithful president’       Anwar Al‐Sadat
      Amir Al‐Mu’minin ‘prince of the believers’        Husni Mubarak
      Sayf al‐Islam       ‘sword of Islam’              Osama Bin Laden


• An adjective derived from the place of origin, birth, residence, or
  occupation. It could be also a clan, tribe, or family.

• Formed by adding –iyy/-iy at the end of the word. Usually
  preceded by al- definite article.

• This form is also used for surnames.
      Abu Ayyub al‐Misri (from Egypt)
      Salah al‐Din Al‐Ayyoubi (founder of Ayyoubi dynasty – conquered 
      Al‐Ansari   fighters born in Iraq (Ansar al‐Sunna group)

• This type of structure is used frequently to coin new surname


• Nabaz could be metaphors that are used to describe somebody
  that is disliked or considered to be an enemy.

• Jihadi style writings use such metaphors abundantly.

Communism/ Soviet Union/ Russian army
      Red Cancer/ Crayfish                      ‫اﻟﺴﺮﻃﺎن اﻷﺣﻤﺮ‬
      Red Octopus                     ‫اﻷﺧﻄﺒﻮط اﻷﺣﻤﺮ‬
      Red Devil                       ‫اﻟﺸﻴﻄﺎن اﻷﺣﻤﺮ‬
      Red Plague                      ‫اﻟﻄﺎﻋﻮن اﻷﺣﻤﺮ‬
      Red crawling                    ‫اﻟﺰﺣﻒ اﻷﺣﻤﺮ‬


       In this talk we surveyed different methods of coining
  nicknames/ aliases in Arabic, how and when they are used. A point
  to remember is that nicknames are symbolic, and provide an
  insight about the person’s mentality, mood, origin, and way of

ً‫شكرا‬   Shukran Thank You!

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